Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Length: 400 pages
Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
A YA fantasy series based around the timeless classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? Count me in. Alice in Wonderland was always one of my favourite stories growing up and I utterly adored both the modern and the classic Disney films. I've always admired the fantasy setting of Wonderland but always wondered whether in fact the hallucinogenic world of Wonderland was indeed appropriately set for children. A.G.Howard takes that idea and completely flips it on it's head, but what did I think of it overall?
In terms of the plot, we as readers are introduced to our main protagonist Alyssa Gardner and her family lineage, dating back all the way to her ancestor Alice Liddell who was supposedly Lewis Carroll's inspiration for the novel. What is revealed to the reader is how when Alice tumbled into Wonderland she left having caused a bit of a chain reaction that has led to elements of Wonderland to fall into dismay. With this novel I think each section (beginning, middle and end) has it's own features to talk about, because not only are they intertwined, each presented themselves to be very different and I found two of them a lot more enjoyable than the other.
I thought that the beginning of this novel was really well developed for an introduction, the world was built up nicely and we as readers were given enough context, introduced as Alyssa's incentive that forged the underlying plot of this book- saving her mother and herself from the Alice family curse. We are slowly introduced to Alyssa's relationship with Jeb as well as her surroundings and how life in general effects her. I really enjoyed this aspect because it gave Alyssa's character a bit more depth and made her slightly more realistic than the others, but we'll get to that later. The pace of the novel really started to develop and increase as Alyssa found her way to the rabbit hole and tumbled down into Wonderland. What she found when she reached the bottom however was a Wonderland much different to Carroll's original descriptions. Howard's Wonderland is warped and a lot less friendly than some of the singing flower's in the Disney Version led you to believe, and talk about some of the creatures - Rabid White was just plain disturbing. Howard took an innocent character and turned him skeletal and warped. I really admired Howard's interpretation of Wonderland because the original had so much potential to be developed in such a dark and eerie way and I think Howard captured that essence perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed how there were elements from the original tale that Alyssa had to test herself against. I thought this was an amazing testament to the original story and played well in Howard's adaptation, while never once feeling as if Carroll's tale was simply being retold. Howard definitely added that aspect of originality which is quite often lost when paying tribute to an already established world.
Contrary to my love of Howard's creations, I have to be honest and admit that while I absolutely loved the setting and the plot that was being unravelled as the book progressed, the plot itself did unravel quite slowly during the middle of the book. There was just so much going on at times that I would often find myself skim reading chunks of text until I found something that really captured my attention. I think that was primarily down to the fact that a lot of the tasks were very repetitive in their structure. Alyssa is run around quite a bit and the tasks seemed to be solved a bit too quickly for my liking that whenever we got to the next task, I found myself losing attention. With the middle section of this novel you definitely need to be patient with it because it does pick up the pace more when you get about 70% of the way through the book. The ending chunk for me was wholly satisfying, we got closure in some elements while opening up a whole other world of problems. With the spirit of Red Queen being released and kind of taking hold of Alyssa, we got an insight into just how manipulative and vindictive her character can be, and I'm excited to see how this progresses in the upcoming instalments. I was satisfied enough with Jeb losing his memory of Wonderland and am intrigued to seeing how this element will play in the sequels because I think it could be handled delicately or it could completely go downhill, which would be a shame for such an intense build up of a novel.
If I'm going to be completely honest, Alyssa was the only character I really connected with and enjoyed reading about of the main trio, although at times she did seem slightly pretentious. I enjoyed her backstory and the small rebellious streak in her attitude that allowed her to see reason in regards to everyone around her trying to control and decide her life. I thought that was a really noble and realistic trait to have because otherwise I think I would have really disliked Alyssa's character, and she was slightly led on with to begin with.
Jeb's character. Mmm. Interesting I have to say. I enjoyed his character in terms of how much he seemed to care about Alyssa as the story went on and how important his role seemed to be in the story, but he was a bit of a jerk. Denying her everything because he loved her all along and wanted to protect her from him? Excuse me? No. Sorry just no. Let her live her life as she wants, thank you. Jeb's character was kind of the hopeless romantic for me, I could see where he was going but sometimes he just seemed to be written in such a childlike manner for someone who was written as slightly adult.
However, nothing compares to my strange and unusual dislike of Morpheus' character, which is a real shame because I was really trying to like him. I did like his personality and how blunt he was but I just felt he was slightly underdeveloped. I knew there was something up with his character from the beginning and I totally guessed the ending - completely narcissistic and self centred. What really irked me about his character though was his fondness of Alyssa. I mean yes you grew up together in her head, but this hopeless romantic flaw similar to Jeb just made me want to tear my hair out sometimes. I understand how other's could love him, he has that seductive aura about him I agree, but just his soppy romanticism really made me turn away from him. I did however really appreciate Morpheus in the end of the novel. I understand that character development must be a thing in a successful novel, but if Morpheus was as intriguing through the development of this novel as he was in the last few chapters then I feel I would have enjoyed his character a lot more. I feel it's important to mention here that while there was a love triangle that didn't work for me, I really did love the banter that went on between Morpheus and Jeb. I think their feisty dialogue that went on between each other while fighting over Alyssa was quite hilarious, except for the fact that it felt quite childish and these characters were written like adults.
Saying that, overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am excited to see where the sequel takes us. Hopefully we delve back into the realm of Wonderland and get some much needed development to some of our male protagonists. I do however look forward to seeing how Red Queen's influence in this story is going to take hold. Now that Alyssa is back in the human world, is Wonderland going to start weaving it's way back into her life? Perhaps elements of Howard's dark and eerie Wonderland will break through the seal of the rabbit hole. I look forward to finding out. I give Splinted by A.G.Howard a 3 out of 5 stars on my classification scale.